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Fibre broadband: a guide

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Fibre optic broadband is growing in coverage and popularity, making our connection to the internet faster than ever. Read our fibre optic broadband guide to find out what this is, how it works and discover whether it's right for you.

What is fibre broadband?

Fibre broadband is a type of internet connection that offers a faster and more reliable internet connection than the alternatives. It’s one of the three widely available types of broadband technology available in the UK, the other two being ADSL (or asymmetric digital subscriber line) and cable.

What other types of broadband are there?

The other types of broadband you can look for are:

  • ADSL: ADSL is the most common type of connection, but also the slowest and cheapest of your options. It works over the same line as your landline, using BT’s copper wiring infrastructure
  • Cable: Cable broadband isn’t as widely available as ADSL in the UK, but it usually offers faster download speeds. Rather than using BT’s copper lines, they use a coaxial cable infrastructure belonging to Virgin Media

How does fibre broadband work?

Fibre broadband uses plastic or glass cables rather than the standard copper wires used in regular broadband connections.

Data is transmitted via beams of light, meaning it travels at light speed and won’t slow down over distances.

There are two main types of fibre broadband:

  • FTTC, or fibre-to-the-cabinet: FTTC is the more common of the two, and as the name implies it uses fibre cables to the local cabinet in the street – from there, copper wires are used to connect it to your home. This type of connection offers ‘superfast’ download speeds
  • FTTP, or fibre-to-the-premises: FTTP is also known as FTTH, or fibre-to-the-home, and it means the fibre cable goes directly to your home. As a result of cutting out the copper completely, it can offer faster ‘ultrafast’ or ‘gigabit’ speeds. However, it's also more expensive and less widely available

Our page on FTTP vs FTTC broadband explains it all.

How fast is fibre broadband?

Fibre broadband provides a much faster and more stable connection than ADSL. Many providers offer superfast fibre broadband with downloads speeds of up to around 35Mbps or 60Mbps. Some superfast broadband deals offer speeds of up to 300Mbps.

If you have an ultrafast connection, your speeds may be advertised as 300-900Mbps, or even beyond 1,000Mbps (1Gbps).

Do I need fibre broadband?

Fibre broadband can offer a very fast connection. If you can get it at your address, we'd recommend getting fibre over ADSL, as it's much faster and usually only a few pounds more expensive.

The question is: how fast should your fibre broadband package be? You'll need to consider whether it's worth paying more for a faster package, based on how much you use the internet overall and how many people are in your household.

It might be helpful to broadly categorise internet users into three different types:

  • Light users: Light internet users generally just use the web for everyday tasks like checking emails, banking or occasionally using social media
  • Medium users: Medium internet users are on the web more often, regularly browsing social media or other websites and occasionally streaming video or audio
  • Heavy users: Heavy internet users are the group most likely to benefit from fibre-optic broadband, as the high speeds ensure fewer interruptions when gaming, streaming and downloading video or audio or sharing files

Our guide to broadband speed goes into more detail.

Do I need unlimited broadband?

If you’re a heavy internet user, you might also benefit from an unlimited downloads broadband deal. Most providers offer this as standard but not all – so it’s worth keeping an eye out to make sure you don’t hit a download cap when you’ve still got things to do online.

What affects my broadband speed?

Aside from the type of connection you have, your download speeds are also likely to be affected by other people on your connection, devices in your home or the technology being used.

  • People or devices using your connection: The more people using, or the more devices connected to your broadband, the more bandwidth is being used up – which means the overall connection speed will go down
  • Electrical devices in your home: Electrical devices, even those not connected to the internet, may still cause interference with your broadband – so keep these as far away from your router as possible
  • Quality of hardware: Old routers and cables, or those in bad condition, can also contribute to slower internet speeds – it might be worth asking your provider for an upgrade if it’s available
  • Viruses and malware: Your computer might be slow in browsing the web if it’s got a virus or malware installed – try scanning your computer with anti-virus software
  • Weather conditions: Stormy weather can affect phone lines, while underground cables can be damaged in freezing temperatures
  • Time of day: During peak internet use hours, usually between 6pm and 11pm, it’s normal to see slower broadband speeds

MoneySuperMarket also offers a broadband speed checker tool, so you can see what kind of download speeds you’re getting and whether they match what your provider has promised.

Can I get fibre broadband?

Not all types of broadband are available in all areas of the UK – so when you compare broadband deals with MoneySuperMarket you’ll be asked for your postcode. This way we’ll be able to show more accurate results for your area.

Frequently asked questions

Do I need any special equipment for fibre broadband?

Depending on where you live and what you already have, you may require new equipment to be installed in your home in order to access fibre broadband. Your provider will be able to tell you if this is necessary.

Do I need a modem?

Some providers may require you to have a modem in addition to a router for the installation of fibre broadband – you’ll be told about any requirements when you switch.

Does fibre broadband use a phoneline?

Fibre broadband doesn’t technically need a phone line as it requires a specialist type of cable made from glass or plastic. However, if you have an entry-level fibre optic plan (FTTC), it’s likely the connection from your local cabinet to your home will be on a copper line. As a result, it'll require a phoneline.

It’s worth noting that many fibre broadband packages come with a landline anyway. Some providers do offer broadband-only options, though, and full fibre plans don't require a phone line.

Is fibre broadband enough for HD and 4K streaming?

Fibre broadband is likely to be more than enough to stream in HD or 4K. Of course, the faster your connection, the smoother your video – but even entry-level fibre optic will be able to do the job.

Just keep in mind that there are other factors that can affect the strength of your connection. If you're experiencing lagging video and a slower-than-normal connection, our guide Why is my internet so slow? goes into more detail.

Can I cancel my fibre broadband?

You should be able to cancel your fibre broadband or switch before your contract is finished, but cancellation fees will usually apply if you decide to leave early.

You should keep the contract length in mind when comparing deals to ensure you get the term you need.

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